I’m Back

This site has been inactive for at least a couple of years – probably the worst years of my life. I’ve been getting a divorce (I’m still getting a divorce but am now legally separated) and there was little room in my head for anything else. So, hopefully, I’ve managed to free up a little space and I might just get back to some actual blogging.

Keep an eye out for word on my next project: Aeon Press will be publishing 2 books of short stories, one  by American author Bruce McAllister and one from Australian writer David Conyers.

More soon.

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Shock Horror – Editor in New Pet Peeve revelation

Just a short note in case anyone cares what editors think. I have, as advertised, a new pet peeve: authors who submit stories with cover letters/emails that do not actually say that they are submitting their story for your consideration for publication.

All I’m asking for is a simple statement. I would like you to consider this story for publication. Or similar.

Is that too much to ask?

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Liverpool FC Heretic

bill-shankly-master-CC1229338

I’ve just finished reading Red or Dead, Bill Shankley’s fictionalized biography by David Peace. As a long-time Liverpool fan I couldn’t really avoid it. I picked it up in a bookshop and it opened at pretty much the best paragraph in the book, where Bill Shankley tells Jock Stein that the return leg of a European tie will not be played in England but in Liverpool. And I was sold.

But, unfortunately, for me, this was a victory for style over content. Yes, I absolutely loved the content, but it was wrecked by the style, by the repetitivity of the formulaic manuscript, of the repetitivity on every page, the repetitivity in every paragraph, the repetitivity in nearly every sentence, the repetitivity… oh, you get the idea.

Perhaps I would have been better going for one of the biographies listed as sources. But I didn’t. I went for Red or Dead. Over 700 pages of Red or Dead. Over 700 pages of repetitions.

One good thing about the repetitions – it meant that I could skip pages and pages of repetitious crap. You could skim by page pattern in the end – until the post-career Shankly, where, oddly enough, Peace breaks out (sorry!) of the formula and simply tells the story without too much repetition. And I was almost prepared to forgive him for the **** (insert own expletive here) that came before.

Almost.

Hey, I Googled repetitivity, to check the spelling more than anything, and found tedious repetitivity. Wish I’d looked earlier.

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Writing That Risks

It’s not often that a book comes out sooner than promised – usually it is quite the opposite, as publishers and editors trot out a huge list of excuses for unforseen delays. A while back I sold a story to an anthology called Writing that RisksWriting That Risks (Red Bridge Press) and was promised it would be ready August/September.  So I thought I could safely expect it for Christmas. But today I got an email from the editor informing me that the book is on sale already and available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other on-line retailers.

I’ve been looking forward to this anthology particularly as it features a story of which I am particularly proud – one that I thought would be hard to find a home for, one that I really enjoyed but one that a lot of readers simply might not get. So thanks to Liana Holmberg for getting it and for buying it and for sending it out into the big bad world. I hope others get it and enjoy it and I’d love to hear from anyone who reads the anthology – one way or the other.

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Reasons To Be Cheerful – Parts One to Twenty (The Premier League Manager-go-round)

noose1. Sir Alex Ferguson (winner of countless titles and cups) retired to be replaced by the greatly respected David Moyes (whose cups and medals also can’t be counted). The favourite to replace David Moyes at Everton is  currently Roberto Martinez whom Toffees fans think is under-qualified as he only won a single FA Cup (one more cup than D. Moyes)

2. Roberto Mancini sacked for only winning the FA Cup and The Premier League in the last three years.

3. Rafa Benitez no longer interim or manager because he only won the Europa League. Oh, and because the fans hated him.

4. Arsene Wenger the highest placed manager in the Premier League to hold onto his job. What’s wrong with Arsenal – no ambition?

5. Andre Villas Boas still at Tottenham. Does he remind you of the school sneak?

6. David Moyes leaves Everton because he gets offered a better job. Apparently keeping Everton in the Premier League over the past ten years (without winning anything) was a feat deserving of promotion to the top job in English football.

7. Brendan Rodgers lives to fight another day at Liverpool (Thank God). If this transfer window is as good as the last he might even become the longest serving manager since Rafa (by surviving until January next).

8. Steve Clarke remains West Brom manager by overachieving in his first season and thereby shooting himself in the foot. Unfotunately for him, I feel, WBA (as they used to be known) will probably find their real level and fight for seventeenth place in the league which means poor Steve is unlikely to make it through the next season. I may just have a wee bet on this down the bookies.

9. Can Michael Laudrup’s outstanding hairstyle get him through another gruelling season in Wales? I fear he may get going once the going gets tough.

10. Big Sam (Allerdyce) toughs it out at West Ham for another season. Please, Sam, persuade Andy Carroll to take the West Ham shilling. It’ll be good for you both, and give Brendan Rodgers some cash to spend on players he fancies.

11. Chris Hughton keeps Norwich up and becomes everybody’s (well, mine actually) favourite nice guy manager. Keep smiling Chris and take the first job offer you get. I’d love to see him fall through the ‘Trap’ door into Ireland management.

12. Martin Jol keps Fulham boring. Best you can hope for Fulham fans.

13. Unlucky for some – Tony Pulis, actually, who got fired for being as boring as Jol but for too long. Without him Stoke would have been back where they belong (Blue Square Premier, anyone?) years ago. Now they’ve got Mark Hughes who is not to blame for any bad results in his past, apparently.

14. I had to google Mauricio Pochettino in order to spell his name right. Took over from the unlucky Nigel Adkins (unlucky to look more like a school teacher than a footballer – I can’t think of what else he did wrong). Can he learn English AND keep Southampton in the Premier League? It was a feat beyond Harry Redknapp!

15. Paul Lambert has another chance to change Aston Villa from the most boring side in the league. Boring, not necessarily in the way they play but in the ‘who gives a crap’ sense.

16. Alan Pardew hangs on to become my favourite for manager with longest remaining time on contract to be fired next season.

17. Paolo (that wasn’t a Fascist salute) Di Canio survives by the skin of his teeth. I’m betting he won’t have enough reasons to ruin suits next year to keep his job.

18, 19 & 20. New boys will be installed as favourites  – managers to be fired and clubs to be relegated. Who will be next season’s surprse packages? Post your answers below please. I promise to sort through the offers of breast implants and mail order brides to reply to every genuine (I was going to put suggestion but thought it was too suggestive) comment.

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Black Odyssey – a truly European comic

Odissea Nera027Black Odyssey is a truly exceptional idea with beautiful design, terrific artwork and an absolutely shitty story.

Black Odyssey is told in three episodes (issues), each of which is presented in a different language. The first issue is presented in Italian with English and French translations beneath the panels (I hesitate to call them subtitles). The second issue is in English, with French and Italian translations. Issue three is in French (quel suprise) with the relevant translations.

Black-Odyssey-vol-1I absolutely loved the design of the comic and the artwork which, particularly in issue one and two, is sublime. Visually, this is a treat. Unfortunately the rest of comic is a mess. The English translation, at least, is poor and detracts from the minimal storyline that was crammed into the available space – most of which is taken up by design/concept.

As with a large percentage of non-professional translation projects what this needed was a final polish – I can only speak for the English version – by a native English speaker who is also a writer. In translation what is required is for not only the words to be converted, but also the style and the spirit of the piece. If you need an example then read anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – particularly Love in the Time of Cholera or One Hundred Years of Solitude – written in Spanish but translated into beautiful English that truly honoured the original rather than merely rendering the words into a foreign language.Black Odyssey vol 2

The story-line also presents major problems, for me at least. Black Odyssey is a retelling of the Odyssey (bet you guessed that already) but with Odysseus recast as a selfish, wandering villain, for no good reason that I can detect. It is also suffused with elements of soft porn, escalating by issue three – the art example presented is one of the few relevant spreads (no pun intended but it may serve as a hint as to what’s missing) that could be considered inoffensive to a general audience – into an excuse for drawing intimate body parts that service everything but the story (pun intended).

Issue Three

Issue Three

I wish I could heartily recommend this valiant effort but unfortunately it is fatally flawed, not by the adult content but by the story and translation.

Issue One: Marra . Cremonesi

Issue Two: Coelho . Sergi

Issue Three: Poncelet . Barone

Published by Passenger Press http://www.passengerpress.blogspot.com

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Music – In My Life

I have a story appearing in a forthcoming anthology entitled Song Stories Volume 1 and the editor requested that the writers blog about how music affected their lives and link to http://www.songstorypress.com/1/post/2013/03/blog-hop.html. As music is a part of my life every day it has naturally inspiresong Storiesd me endlessly over the years. The most hits I ever got on this blog was for a Beatles v. Kinks piece (The Kinks won hands down but that’s another story).

My last short story collection was called That’s Entertainment after a song by the Jam. Initially the proposal did not include a story by that name nor was it a proposed title for the book. Andrew Hook at Elastic Press came back to me and said he felt the collection needed one more story and that, as it was a themed collection based about the alternate history of entertainment, that he’s like me to write a story about the Jam and call it That’s Entertainment, which would also be the title of the collection.

As my mantra is inspired by the Beatles – I can make it longer if you like the style, I’ll be writing more in a little while – I naturally acceded to his request. Unfortunately I came up with no ideas for a Jam story or a Paul Weller story or anything even close. What I did come up with was a superhero story – superheros are real, they’re like actors in the comics which detail their adventures and get guest slots in crossover title and the like – and inspired by the title wrote a story I still really like and am proud of.

Elvis Presley is another figure I’m fascinated by and have written stories about, though I don’t really like his music, I’m interested in him as a cultural icon. My Elvis stories feature him as a serial killer (Killing Time) or a lost soul (Alias Morton Pinkney). The Beatles feature heavily in my fiction; two in That’s Entertainment – Bigger Than Jesus (John is thrown out of the Beatles in 1962, the other die in a plane crash and he lives happily (not famously) ever after – but would he swap happiness for fame) and Faces I Remember (they’re a squad of assassins in an alternate Europe where the cold war turned hot(ish) at the end of the fifties).

Many of the stories I write start out with song titles as the story title, though I seldom leave it that way for publication. Jim Morrison is another big influence and one of these days I’m going to write the definitive Riders on the Storm story, but I’m going to have to step up my game to do it justice. He’s already featured in a weird western story, The Pecos Stop, as the Peyote Kid, a somewhat self-aggrandizing poet cum gunfighter and his murder, as the Peyote Kid, is at the centre of the novel I’m currently working on.

So, all in all I’ve got music bursting out of much of what I write and I will continue to listen and filter out joy and insipration for many years to come. If you fancy a story inspired by David Bowie’s Bewlay Brothers you could do worse that  risk a few dollars on Song Stories Volume One from Song Stories Press. You can find further details at their website: http://www.songstorypress.com/index.html

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